We need new metrics to prove content ROI
There is not a senior marketer who I have spoken with recently who is not feeling the pressure of providing ROI metrics that withstand commercial scrutiny.
The consistent message is that existing ROI calculations around brand perception, audience reach and so on are appreciated as essential but are less likely to carry weight when it comes to budget analysis. As a result, there can be no complacency when it comes to improving our ability to measure the commercial ROI of marketing activities and getting closer to the must-have metric of attribution to sale. And this is especially the case in the world of content marketing.
Most content marketers have rested easy in the knowledge that it is a discipline that has always had ROI at its heart. After all, the rise of content marketing was indelibly linked to the advent of digital and this meant that clicks, likes, views, dwell time, bounce rates and other forms of measurement were readily at hand. However, as is now appreciated, although valid performance metrics that tell you how well your audience is engaging with your content, they do not easily translate into commercial ROI.
So, to calculate content marketing ROI, we need to look at three types of metrics. The first of which we already do today and which can be thought of as content engagement metrics. In other words the social media metrics, website metrics and campaign metrics that we all use on a daily basis to understand how our content is performing from a straightforward engagement point of view.
As already alluded to, the second type of metrics will calculate the way in which the content shows the progression of the audience towards your commercial goals. This form of metric is noticeably absent within content marketing programmes today. At the moment, no connection is being made between the content being produced within marketing programmes and the subsequent content required to progress the target audience forward towards the defined commercial goals. Without this, sales attribution cannot be robustly calculated. However, even more importantly, the marketing content lacks commercial integrity.
By measuring content journey metrics, you are able to ensure that the content being produced is contributing to the journey and whether specific pieces of content and journeys are performing better than others in terms of driving the target audience forwards towards the commercial goal. It also means that if some commercial goals have higher priority, you can understand which content is supporting those priority goals most effectively and where the gaps are or underperforming content is.
The final piece in the puzzle are the attribution metrics that show how your content is enabling sales. If content journey metrics are in place, then it is possible to analyse the journey progress at an individual, persona group or company (if B2B) level regardless where the sale was made as long as the individual is identifiable. By doing so you are able to assess sales attribution as you have been able to analyse the entire journey to sale and therefore the contribution the content made along that journey.
The above formula will create the ideal commercial ROI analytics for content marketing. Of course, the critical thing to understand is what the business needs to see, balanced against what you want the business to understand to support your content marketing activities and investment. And it is vital to appreciate that this is not simply about justifying the existing investment but understanding how to improve the content marketing programme so that you are producing greater commercial returns.
Scott McLean is co-founder and COO of Odyssiant